Your questions answered: Is Bluetooth enough, or do we need hands-free kits too?

By Portner Press on April 4th, 2019
  1. Risk Management
  2. Workplace Safety

Q
We are a Victorian company working in the construction industry. We employ many supervisors who drive to sites in company utes that are fitted with Bluetooth connectivity. Recently, an employee had an accident while looking down at his phone to see who was ringing. He said the phone should have had a windscreen mount.

Are we under any obligation to have phones mounted to display the screen as well as the Bluetooth connectivity? Also, the chief financial officer of our company proposes to get staff to pay the $1,000 excess if a collision is deemed to be their fault. If that clause is included in the company vehicle policy is that something we are able to implement?

Would each individual have to sign off on the policy or are we able to enforce employees driving company vehicles to pay insurance excesses?

A
The answer to your query will depend on your existing company policies and any prohibition or expectation that workers will receive calls while driving.

As an employer in Victoria, you have a general duty, so far as is reasonably practicable, to provide and maintain for employees a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. That duty requires you to eliminate risks to health where possible, or otherwise to minimise those risks.

If your company requires and/or expects workers to make or receive calls while driving, you should provide a safe way to do so that eliminates, or where not reasonably practicable, minimises the risks of taking a call while driving.

On your review of the risks to health and safety, you may determine that it is reasonably practicable to:

  • eliminate the risk to health from using a mobile phone while driving by prohibiting workers from using phones while driving;
  • minimise the risk to health from using a mobile phone while driving by, for example, requiring workers to only make or receive phone calls when parked, through use of a Bluetooth system or voice activation.

Your policy should, in any event, have regard to the applicable road rules in Victoria in respect of mobile phone use. These are summarised at the following link: www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/safety-and-road-rules/driver-safety/mobile-phones-and-driving.

Relevantly, using a mobile phone while driving is prohibited, except to make or receive a phone call or to use its audio/music functions provided that the phone:

  • is secured in a commercially designed holder fixed to the vehicle; or
  • can be operated by the driver without touching any part of the phone; and
  • the phone is not resting on any part of the driver’s body.

If you wish to request an employee to pay excess for the damage to a company vehicle, the company will need a signed agreement with the employee in respect of the employee’s liability to pay excess before being able to require an employee to pay excess.

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